12 cosy crime shows to watch after Midsomer Murders

Neil Dudgeon and Nick Hendrix in Midsomer Murders
Neil Dudgeon and Nick Hendrix in Midsomer Murders - ITV

Who would have thought it? Well, DCI Barnaby might but he’s good at solving mysteries. According to the “content tracker” Parrot Analytics, Midsomer Murders – the long-running ITV detective drama which is mocked by critics but beloved by viewers – is now as popular in the US than in the UK. And it’s pretty darned popular at home.

Who needs flamboyant sleuths or gritty urban settings? It seems audiences on both sides of the Atlantic can’t get enough of outlandish slayings in sleepy villages, whimsically solved by deadpan middle-aged men in suits, while an all-star guest cast camp it up around them.

So after you’ve devoured all 132 (and counting) episodes of dear old Midsomer, where to find your next fix of quintessentially British cosy crime? We’ve handpicked a dozen similar dramas to sink into. Pop the kettle on and guess whodunit.

1. Father Brown (BBC iPlayer/Alibi/Amazon Prime Video)

Preach from the pulpit, catch the culprit. The killer combination of GK Chesterton’s classic stories, a nostalgic 1950s setting and gorgeous Cotswolds scenery has made this gentle daytime whodunit a surprise global hit. It broadcasts in 235 territories worldwide, including US primetime. Mark Williams plays the crime-busting Catholic priest in the village parish of Kembleford. Like a clerical Miss Marple, his mild-mannered exterior conceals a razor-sharp mind and keen understanding of human nature, enabling him to sniff out murder. For more devout detection, try Sister Boniface Mysteries – a spin-off about a crime-busting nun.

2. Annika (Alibi/BBC iPlayer/Masterpiece)

Nicola Walker – of Spooks, Unforgotten and Last Tango In Halifax pedigree – is one of our very finest TV actresses, so savour her in this entertaining series, based on a Radio 4 drama, while you still can. Walker stars as DI Annika Strandhed, a single mother heading up the Marine Homicide Unit and solvings seemingly unfathomable murders in Scottish waters. The two twists? Our heroine is a Norwegian ex-pat and she breaks the fourth wall to confide in viewers. A solid lochside procedural is lit up by Walker’s droll wit. Pass the salted licorice.

Nicola Walker in Annika
Nicola Walker in Annika - Graeme Hunter

3. Dalziel & Pascoe (Drama/BritBox/Amazon Prime Video)

It’s pronounced “Dee-ell”, obviously. The award-winning BBC drama, based on Reginald Hill’s novels, saw two mismatched Yorkshire detectives thrown together and annoying the hell out of each other. DSI Andy Dalziel (Warren Clarke) was a politically incorrect, hard-drinking old-school copper, blunt to the point of rudeness and prone to picking his nose. DI Peter Pascoe (Colin Buchanan) was a fast-tracked, well-mannered, university-educated snowflake. Yet as the sparks flew, they made a formidable team. The series remained remarkably consistent, airing 46 high-quality films across 11 years.

4. Miss Scarlett & The Duke (Alibi/Masterpiece)

Not to be confused with the Cluedo character, Eliza Scarlett (played by Peaky Blinders’ Kate Phillips) takes over her late father’s detective agency in Victorian London and soon carves out a niche in the male-dominated world of ye olde crime-cracking. She’s ably assisted in her adventures by her childhood friend William “Duke” Wellington (Stuart Martin), now a gruff detective at Scotland Yard. A lively period romp ensues, with simmering romance between the leads and Eliza loosely modelled on Lizzie Bennet from Pride & Prejudice.

Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin in Miss Scarlet and the Duke
Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin in Miss Scarlet and the Duke

5. Agatha Raisin (Sky Max/iTunes/Amazon Prime Video)

It started with a one-off “Quiche of Death”, proved a tasty treat and is still going strong five series later. Based on MC Beaton’s books, this fun and frothy whodunit stars Ashley Jensen as a PR hot shot who relocates from London to the seemingly sleepy Cotswolds village of Carsley in search of a quieter life. Fat chance. This blonde-bobbed amateur sleuth is soon cracking kitschy-but-compelling crimes. Mathew Horne (Gavin & Stacey) and Katy Wix (Ghosts) provide further comic chops in supporting roles.

Ashley Jensen as Agatha Raisin
Ashley Jensen as Agatha Raisin - Shutterstock

6. Bergerac (BritBox/Amazon Prime Video)

John Nettles was the original star of Midsomer Murders but made his name – not to mention his “housewives’ favourite” reputation – as this craggy Eighties favourite. DS Jim Bergerac was a recovering alcoholic, attempting to rebuild his career at Jersey’s Le Bureau des Étrangers. He had a roguish former father-in-law in Charlie Hungerford (Terence Alexander), a longstanding flirtation with glamorous jewel thief Philippa “Ice Maiden” Vale (Liza Goddard), drove a vintage Triumph Roadster and had a cool guitar-twanging theme tune. A reboot is in the pipeline, expected to arrive next year.

John Nettles and Liza Goddard in Bergerac
John Nettles and Liza Goddard in Bergerac - Alamy

7. Hetty Wainthropp Investigates (Alibi/BritBox/Amazon Prime Video)

Patrica Routledge was fresh from playing suburban snob Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet, naturally) in sitcom Keeping Up Appearances when she turned sleuth for this Nineties drama. Cardigan-clad Henrietta Wainthropp was a sprightly retiree from rural Lancashire who filled her days solving crimes ignored by the police, usually with young lodger Geoffrey (Dominic “Merry the Hobbit” Monaghan) in tow. When the popular show was canned after four series, Routledge called it a “betrayal… the BBC is run by rude 10-year-old children”. You tell ’em, Hetty/Hyacinth.

Patricia Routledge in Hetty Wainthropp Investigates
Patricia Routledge in Hetty Wainthropp Investigates - Alamy

8. Whitstable Pearl (Acorn/Amazon Prime Video)

“Sometimes big-time crimes need a small-town detective.” When her son leaves home, empty-nester Pearl Nolan (After Life’s excellent Kerry Godliman) pursues her lifelong dream by starting a private detective agency from her family gastropub in the ravishing Kent coastal town of Whitstable. As locals flock to her with an eclectic mix of cases, bodies start piling up and Pearl finds herself locking horns with DCI Mike McGuire (Howard Charles), the tough new cop-in-town. Frances Barber, Robert Webb and Cathy Tyson lend sterling support in these hugely likeable murder-mysteries.

Kerry Godliman in Whitstable Pearl
Kerry Godliman in Whitstable Pearl - Mark Bourdillon/AcornTV

9. Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators (BBC iPlayer/Alibi/Amazon Prime Video)

This wilfully quirky caper could be schedule-filler in less skilled hands but it’s lifted to another level by its leads, Mark Benton and Jo Joyner. As hangdog ex-police detective Frank Hathaway and nosy former hairdresser Luella Shakespeare, the mismatched duo squeeze into her red Mini Cooper to fight crime in picture-postcard Stratford-upon-Avon. Their impeccable comic timing and easy chemistry is a delight. Patrick Walshe McBride steals scenes as sarcastic secretary Sebastian – a local tour guide and wannabe actor, fittingly for the Bard’s home town.

10. Jonathan Creek (Drama/BritBox/AppleTV)

Pitched as a British remix of Columbo, writer David Renwick’s fiendishly clever creation is half-screwball comedy, half-locked room mystery. Duffel-coated, curly-haired Alan Davies charms as the titular magician’s consultant, shrewdly using his expertise in devising illusions to solve seemingly impossible crimes. His original and best sidekick was Caroline Quentin, who was later replaced by Julia Sawalha, Sheridan Smith and Sarah Alexander. Like Midsomer Murders, they’re supported by a revolving guest cast of familiar faces. And a windmill.

Caroline Quentin and Alan Davies in Jonathan Creek
Caroline Quentin and Alan Davies in Jonathan Creek - Alamy

11. Rosemary & Thyme (ITVX/BritBox)

“Murder, mayhem… and horticulture!” That was the tagline for this cosy mystery series, which was surely conceived title-first. Green-fingered Rosemary Boxer (Felicity Kendal) and Laura Thyme (Pam Ferris) were brought together by a sudden death but discovered a mutual love of botany and set up their own freelance gardening business. The muddy-booted duo’s crime-solving sideline was aided by their ability to overhear secrets and dig up clues, while trundling around in a dilapidated Land Rover. Over four series, it became ITV’s top-rated drama with 10m viewers, and could only have been more crowd-pleasing if it featured a shirtless Alan Titchmarsh tending the herbaceous borders.

12. Pie In The Sky (Drama/AppleTV)

The late Richard Griffiths might be known to many as Vernon Dursley from the Harry Potter films, Hector from The History Boys or Uncle Monty from Withnail & I but in the mid-Nineties, he starred in this underrated crime comedy-drama.

Pie In the Sky
Pie In the Sky - Fremantle Media/Shutterstock

The role of Inspector Henry Crabbe – a disillusioned, semi-retired policeman and head chef at his own Berkshire restaurant – was created for Griffiths, who inhabited it with his usual gusto. Signature dish? His crusty steak and kidney pie. Long-suffering wife Maggie Steed kept the establishment running while Henry caught criminals and still got back in time for pudding.